No retirement for pensioners

Once upon a time, retirement meant long hours of rest and fireside stories told to attentive grandchildren, but for some pensioners, no such luxury exists. Ronnie Chisamba’s writes a story about defying age and overcoming adversity.

No retirement for pensioners - Henry Masinire at 78

No retirement for pensioners – Henry Masinire at 78

A 78-year-old well-digger? l had heard about him but had dismissed the story as one of the  many fabricated stories which circulate on various social networks until the day l met Henry Maradze Masinire (78). At first glance, Henry looks like a normal septuagenarian; grey hair, wrinkled features. But, like they say,”Never judge a book but its cover.”

Breadwinner at 78

Born on the 2nd January 1938 in Chirasauta, Chikomba District, Masinire is true testimony that when it comes to matters of survival, age is just a number.While most people of his age are enjoying their retirement days in luxurious hotels and retirement homes, he still has to toil to put food on the table. Henry is the breadwinner for his daughter-in-law (whose husband is struggling to make ends meet in the once vibrant and industrious city of Kadoma) and his six grandchildren.

No retirement in harsh economy

The fifth born son of a mine worker and peasant farmer, Masinire grew up accustomed to backbreaking manual work. He uses the money he earns from digging wells to buy food, clothes and to pay school fees for his grandchildren. Masinire admits that his job is physically demanding and has thought of retiring but the economic hardships have always made him reconsider. He says he hopes to continue working until 2018, at which point  he will be 80 years old.

Thirty-eight year career

Affectionately known as Hukutu ( a name derived from his village of origin) to his friends and family, he has since moved to Mudyawabikwa Village near Sadza Growth Point, about 190km South-east of Harare. He points out that he has lost count of the wells he has dug since he started in 1978.

“I was introduced to well digging by a close friend when l left my place of employment in Bulawayo, ” said the soft spoken man.

Moved to tears

Looking at Masinire going about his work, with tears in my  eyes, the statement which  says something about some men being born great and some struggling to achieve greatness came to mind.


Ronnie Chisamba is a freelance writer with a deep passion for words and art in general. Some of his work has appeared in B.B.C. Focus on Africa Magazine.